Gubernatorial candidate McGuire holds education round table in Davenport

Thomas Geyer, Quad-City Times
November 18, 2017

If Iowa is going to grow economically and if the state’s children are to be able to compete for jobs, education funding has to be a top priority in the budget process, Iowa gubernatorial candidate Andrea “Andy” McGuire said.

“I don’t think this is a matter of finding that revenue in the state budget,” she said. “I think the revenue is already there.

“This is a matter of our budget being mismanaged,” McGuire said.

McGuire spoke to Davenport school students and faculty Saturday during a roundtable discussion held at Davenport’s Mid City High School.

McGuire was joined by members of The Iowa Democratic Black Caucus.

The discussion started out on mental health but by necessity turned to school funding.

Dave Thede, technology education teacher at Mid Cities, told McGuire about a number of students who wrote a bill that would allow the Davenport Community School District, and other districts, to dip into their cash reserves up to $175 per student for three years as the legislature figured out a way to fix the school funding disparity.

The Davenport School District, along with about 160 other districts in the state, receives the minimum funding from the state, which comes to $6,446 per student. The remaining districts, about 170, receive more than Davenport, with six receiving up to $175 more per student.

“It was a real eye-opener for our kids,” Thede said. “The kids were told it’s the perfect bill, and then it was explained to them why it would not get out of committee. They all thought, ‘This should pass easily. It doesn’t cost the state a dime.’ But then they found that nothing passes easily.”

Thede said it was strictly “a Band-Aid bill that would give the legislature time to do it.”

Students also came up with the idea of merely using the interest earned on the reserves, he said. But that went nowhere.

Thede also explained that there is a serious shortage engineers in Iowa’s workforce. “That’s why we started the engineering program.” Part of the group that helps to write the engineering curriculum are from NASA and McDonnell Douglas, he added. “They know what they have to do for engineers. They have to go overseas and bring them over. They beg us for home-grown engineers.”

“We give money to a company from Egypt to come here, we give money to Apple, but they have to import people into the state to work these jobs,” Clayton said.

McGuire said that money should not be provided to companies that are not providing value back to Iowa and the education of Iowa’s children.

She added that there is a huge skill gap for the manufacturing jobs that already are in the state, and the jobs the state hopes to get for the future.

“Those jobs are everywhere and we don’t have the people to fill them,” McGuire said. “Education is the foundation on which everything else rests.”

McGuire said she talked to one student who said there aren’t enough text books in many classes so kids cannot do homework.

“Our kids need things right now,” McGuire said. “She should be getting to the point where every student everywhere in the state is getting the funding they need.

“We’re not talking about an extravagance,” she said. “We’re talking about teaching our kids. If there is anything more important than that please explain it to me.

“Education needs more revenue, no ifs, ands or buts about it,” McGuire said. “I think the money is there. We have to stop spending our money in ways that does not bring back value. The value that education brings back is huge.”

After the meeting, Clayton said that Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids where he lives brings engineers in from overseas and then helps get them enculturated into American society. Those engineers were developed from an early age.

“I understand that not every child is going to be an engineer or doctor,” he said. “Everyone is blessed with their own skills. But everyone should be able to receive a universal quality education, and even if they have to go to class in a tent, we should be able to put a computer in front of them and they should know how to use it.

“Instead of being jealous of foreign engineers and being angry, we need to develop our own engineers,” Clayton said. “It’s just that we want everything to be on the cheap and live off somebody else’s investment. We’re using their talent because we don’t to invest money in our talent.”